REPORTING FROM APIA, SAMOA ISLANDS : The case of sustainable development through the SIDS Community

Article paru dans Le Mauricien |

2014 is the International Year of SIDS, which will celebrate the contributions that SIDS have made to the world and will help raise awareness of the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States happening in Apia, Samoa.

Countries forming part of the SIDS, including Mauritius, are the most vulnerable towards the challenges posed by climate change and global warming.  SIDS struggle the most with sustainable development issues, unlike the rest of the world, due to their isolation, size, small resource base and vulnerability to climate change. Thing of which is affecting numerous issues linked to poverty and development today including: hunger, agriculture, health, labor, water, disasters and displacement.
Role of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
NGOs and other civil society groups are not only stakeholders in governance, but also a driving force behind greater international cooperation through the active mobilization of public support for international agreements.
NGOs are growing in importance in global politics, particularly their ability to mediate between international institutions and individuals.
While some NGOs enjoy excellent access to meetings and have good relations with UN officials and delegations, governments sometimes react negatively to NGO advocacy and seek to restrict NGO opportunities.  Unfortunately, this has proved to be true in Mauritius as our organisation, the Plateforme Citoyenne has received no support in any sort, from the government to participate to the SIDS Conference. It is thanks to the community who believe in our vision for sustainable development that our voices will be heard by other stakeholders.
Our immersion in the Samoan’s society
We reached Samoa Islands last Monday morning and the Pre-Conference events are scheduled to start today. We seize this opportunity to meet with locals, learn more about their culture and way of life and discover their unspoilt landscape and nature.
One of the first things we noticed in Samoa from our way to the airport was the nostalgic Mauritian feel of the 1950s. On perusing vintage photos of Mauritius, it certainly looks like a step down in memory lane. From our perspective, one of the reasons may be linked to the lack of cultural and technological pollution from the modern world. Indeed, the lifestyle seems to be centred on family ties rather than a portal linking us to a virtual world. This can be moreover seen as anchored in the very core of the society through its traditional planning ideologies, which is still very much valid in the 21st century.

“If we respect each other, we tend to love each other. In Samoa we do not say the word love a lot, we say respect! So when you respect each other, your actions reflect it. You have to make sure they are OK, you have to make sure they are well fed, you have to make sure they are well taken care of. So, it’s all about respect people! ”

Toleafoa Chris Solomona
Samoa Cultural Village

Due to the remorsely phenomenon of urban sprawl, our rural areas near to cities in Mauritius can be seen to slowly getting linked, and thus changing the morphology from a rural to suburban region. Over two islands, Samoa accommodates only 188,000 in population over a land of 2800km2, settlement patterns can be seen to spread out far from the city centre. The planning of such is very interesting: one can see that it favours extended families over single unit dwellings. As such, houses are placed around a main open communal structure that seems to host, and promote, family gatherings on an everyday basis.

“It’s good that Samoa is hosting this conference because it will bring a lot of people here and it will be good for tourism, which is one of Samoa most important source of revenue.  It will promote Samoa to the rest of the world and help us put forward the issues affecting the countries and together find solutions to improve our conditions.
The biggest issue faced by small countries is climate change and its paradox: large industrialised countries contribute the more to pollution but we, small developing and least developed countries, are the one who are on the frontline of those being affected.  For example, sea level rises are causing lava countries to sink.”

Loloma Ripley (16 years)
Robert Louis Stevenson School

This very relaxed lifestyle is very surprising even more when we realise that the community is not in an economic race. They value their culture and traditions above all and most importantly they acknowledge the fear of opening the doors to a modern world that could slowly deconstruct their valued lifestyle. The SIDS conference could not have been in better place, it is a great opportunity of exploring sustainable development from another angle, and this viewed from the eyes of the community rather than from that of an official working on an excel spreadsheet. As such, development goes beyond much more than just financial stability, the Samoan people seem to understand that and is actively striving to share their philosophies to a much larger audience.
We will slowly be launching a series of short videos with our encounters with cultural representatives, students, parliament members, various delegates, etc. to share those philosophies as related by Samoans and hope this triggers a discussion on various levels back home.
We now realise that we do have the potential to address a larger audience where our ideas are valued. We call to other NGOs to strive for what they believe in, and hope to expand our network to them on our way back home with the aim to foster creative and innovative links to further the fight oriented towards achieving sustainable development, not only in the energy sector, but on numerous other levels.
27th August 2014